The essential bruce willis

Bruce Willis is a pioneer for setting trends. He’s the only action star from the late ‘80s to become known for his sparkplugging characters and renegade traits without succumbing to training in a combative background, like body building, wrestling, boxing or martial arts. Throughout his career, Bruce Willis stayed fit, lean, and incognito with his fitness techniques, maintaining the appearance of the everyday man while giving the average male body figures of the world confidence so that they, too, can kick ass without having to put on muscles.

Bruce Willis in Antoine Fuqua’s Tears of the Sun (2003) Columbia Pictures

With the exception of 8-time Grand Slam winning tennis champion Andre Agassi, Bruce Willis ushered in the trend of the razor shaved bald-head for the Caucasian male. Any human being who became accustomed to their full head of hair, who then faced the grueling and nail biting decision to chop it all off, followed by scraping it with a razor, knows the stressful feeling that comes with the very first time they look at their changed expression in the mirror due to their unrecognizable face. They see a raw image of someone who’s revealed themselves. The first time a human being shaves their head to the scalp, either by choice or necessity, gives off a rebirth effect. It’s almost as if you’ve realized that all this time prior, you were hiding behind all that hair. Bruce Willis carried the torch for all bald men and took the lead. Perhaps, Andre Agassi was right behind him on the march to the finish line.

Bruce Willis in Terry Gilliam’s 12 Monkeys (1995) Universal Pictures

Bruce Willis’ head is “like a monument to cranial architecture.” Said Terry Gilliam, the director of 12 Monkeys (1995), starring Bruce Willis who portrays a convict in the year 2035 who travels back in time to the year 1990 to warn the population of a coming plague caused by a man-made virus that wipes out civilization, forcing citizens to live underground. This story is hauntingly familiar to the path that we may or may not be headed in 2020, considering the current worldwide pandemic. Nonetheless, we thank Bruce Willis for paving the necessary path for a great number of human beings.

Bruce Willis in John Moore’s A Good Day to Die Hard (2013) Twentieth Century Fox

Having worked on over 100 films as an actor, it’s not a consensus, but unanimous, when we conclude that Bruce Willis is known mostly for his iconic portrayal of John McClane in the Die Hard saga. Sure, he starred in M. Night Shyamalan’s The Sixth Sense (1999), which is ranked #89 on the American Film Institute’s Top 100 Greatest Films of All Time list, and also starred in Quentin Tarantino’s Pulp Fiction (1994), which is ranked #94 on the same list. And we cannot neglect to mention Michael Bay’s Armageddon (1997), the critically underrated work of art starring Bruce Willis. But, neither of the aforementioned three equate to the weight of the Die Hard franchise and the impact John McClane had on the world of cinema. Nevertheless, it’s with the exclusion of these popular films where we can narrow down the list to the five most essential Bruce Willis movies that deserve to be seen and/or revisited, based on their mere rarity as hidden gems of cinema.

Hudson Hawk

Though this film didn’t perform well at the box office in 1991, bringing in a $17 million worldwide gross on a $65 million budget, Hudson Hawk is still a hilarious action/adventure comedy with a story written by Bruce Willis himself. Hudson Hawk (Bruce Willis) is an art thief forced to rob the works of Leonardo Da Vinci while he’s involved in a scheme for a new world order. The cinematography is by Dante Spinotti (Heat) and its produced by Joel Silver (The Matrix).

TriStar Pictures

The Last Boy Scout

This is the ultimate collaboration where Bruce Willis teamed up with arguably the greatest action director of all time, Tony Scott. Bruce Willis plays Private Detective Joe Hallenbeck, who investigates the murder of his protected witness , Cory (Halle Berry), alongside her boyfriend and former football star Jimmy Dix (Damon Wayans) into a web of contamination and corruption involving politicians and football team owners. This film ingeniously combines hard-edged action with a dark sense of humor in its witty screenplay written by Shane Black (Kiss Kiss Bang Bang). Considering both John McClane and Joe Hallenbeck are cops, their entirely different attitudes toward life separate them from each other with precise qualities differentiating the two. John McClane in the original Die Hard is a clean-shaven, heroic cop with the NYPD who will go above and beyond to save the lives of his family. Joe Hallenbeck is the antihero; a scruffy faced, strip club attending alcoholic private detective who slips and slides his way in and out of fighting crime. Quentin Tarantino has mentioned that after John McClane, Joe Hallenbeck is his favorite Bruce Willis character.

Warner Bros.

Death Becomes Her

This is Bruce Willis’ magnificent turn into the world of Fantasy and Horror. Directed by the master Robert Zemeckis (Back to the Future), with a screenplay by David Koepp (Mission: Impossible, Snake Eyes) and a musical score by Alan Silvestri (Avengers: Endgame), Death Becomes Her is about immortality when two rival women face-off against each other in a contest of infinite beauty. Bruce Willis plays Dr. Ernest Menville in a memorable performance as the husband of Madeline Menville (Meryl Streep), playing a pivotal role in her quest to remain forever youthful.


Striking Distance

This film is arguably Bruce Willis’ rarest gem considering its unpopularity and failures at the box office. Bruce Willis portrays Detective Tom Hardy, a cop who comes from a police family dynasty and becomes torn with his Uncle, Captain Nick Detillo (Dennis Farina) and his cousin, Detective Danny Detillo (Tom Sizemore), after his father Lieutenant Vince Hardy (John Mahoney) gets mysteriously killed in the line of duty. Tom blames his father’s killing on an inside job within the police department, and the film turns into a serious suspense/mystery.

Columbia Pictures

Last Man Standing

Directed by Walter Hill (The Warriors, Undisputed), Last Man Standing is the third retelling of the western gunslinger who enters a ghost town involving himself in between a gang war, while playing both sides. The first time this story was told was Akira Kurosawa’s Yojimbo (1961), a Japanese film about a Samurai who enters a small town tied in between two crime lords. The second time this story was told was Sergio Leone’s A Fistful of Dollars (1964), an Italian Spaghetti-Western starring Clint Eastwood as a gun fighter who manipulates two warring families. What makes Last Man Standing just as special as the aforementioned is the fact that it takes place during the prohibition era in the United States where a drifting gunslinger named John Smith (Bruce Willis) gets inadvertently involved amid a war between the Irish mob and the Italian mafia. Both Bruce Dern and Christopher Walken have supporting roles in this endlessly classic tale that never gets old.

New Line Cinema

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